The first one is this. Around 700 years before Jesus came to earth and was born in Bethlehem, the then Jerusalem Temple was intended to be the place – the only place - on earth where anybody (anybody irrespective of nationality or race or ethnicity) would be able to enter and pray. We know that because, there in Jerusalem around BC 710, Isaiah wrote that message from the LORD God ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’ and his eponymous book has been preserved in the national archives of the Jews ever since that time.
The Jerusalem temple was to be the house, on earth, of the God of the skies, who would respond to and have friendship with those who prayed to him.
The people of God – the Jews – had taken that house of prayer and made money for themselves out of it. In AD 30, those who wished to meet with the God who is there had to pray in the middle of a car boot sale, had to change their money gifts into Temple Money and submit to whatever exchange rates were available at Temple bureaux de change. They had to enrich others before they could pray before the God who freely gives to all who ask him.
We catch a flavour of this from the word Matthew uses to describe the bureaux de change operators– kollubiston, from kollubos which literally means ‘clipper’ – money-clippers. Because coins had intrinsic value (being made of silver for instance) clipping could enhance the buying and selling trade. What about “selling” doves? Aren’t they ‘two-a-penny’?
The second startling contrast is between those selling and buying, motivated by wealth, and Jesus, motivated by compassion. The blind came to him there. They couldn’t see anything. Their lives were in a hopeless mess. When they prayed to him he healed them – for free. The lame came to him there. They couldn’t move themselves. Their lives were in a hopeless mess. When they prayed to him he healed them – for free.
Today the Jerusalem temple is no more. It was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans. Jesus stated that he himself is its replacement. He stated, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”